Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The south (of Sweden) will rise again

A little while ago I found this blog about Scania, an area in the south of Sweden.

The Swedish government says that Scanians speak a dialect of Swedish. However, historically, the area was not Swedish but a sovereign country. Ethnologue treats Scanian as a separate language, I assume because of this history. Typically, the three mainland Scandinavian languages are mutually intelligible, and so probably best described as the same language. (Although I tell you I have a hard time understanding Danish maybe I just need to try harder.) I assume that Scanian is also mutually intelligible with them.

Anyway, the Scanians at Blog Skåneland are looking to revive Scanian pride. It’s a little disenheartening to see the same old prescriptivism, discrimination, and calls for
official” protection of the language that go on in Sweden.

In today’s tabloid newspaper Kvällsposten, a frustrated new ”immigrant” to Skåne from the northern part of Sweden (the city of Gävle) complains in a letter to the editor that he can’t understand the Scanian idiom on the local radio. He says the radio journalists' voices sound like “a porridgy gurgle” (porridgy referring to someone who speaks with porridge in his throat). And as Swedish guest in Skåne he gives, in an up-nosed manner, the radio stations good advice: “Send your radio broadcasters to a course in how to speak proper Swedish”.

The Swedish state radio has decided to bar two members of the staff of the Swedish meteorological institute SMHI from appearing in the radio’s weather programs. The reason given by the radio management is that they are not suitable for radio broadcast. The truth is that they speak the “wrong” dialects. Only proper Swedish (the regional language of Svealand) is apparently allowed on state radio. And of course, one of the barred meteorologists is Scanian.

One reaction is the turn-out of the fire brigade – i.e. the Minister of Culture himself. “Protect the language by law”, he shouts as he drives his linguistic fire engine to save his Swedish language-baby in distress.

The Swedish Minister of Culture doesn’t give up. Some weeks ago he was interviewed in an article in one of the most influential mass media in the country, the Stockholm newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. He said that he will make a renewed effort to pass legislation in the Swedish state parliament in favour of protecting the official Swedish language as the only official language in the country. The same parliament voted in December 2005 against such legislation.

Just once, I’d like to see someone adopt a language policy that recognizes the diversity of language and that allows individuals to speak they way they want. Oh wait, that's still the official US Government policy.


boredoom said...

You have to go back to before nation-states to find that Scania was a sovereign territory. Then it was Danish till the Swedes pwned them in 1658. The dialect is pretty particular, but to call it a different language is to overstate things considerably There are probably other dialects in the country that diverge just as much from "rikssvenska," as spoken by the Mandarins in Stockholm.

BTW, on the Danish island of Bornholm, they speak a dialect of Danish that sounds pretty close to Swedish. It may close to what the Scanians spoke before the Swedish conquista.

liberal elite said...

I've got to go to Bornholm. They seem like Danes I can hang with.

boredoom said...

Did you see "Pelle the Conqueror"? It's set on Bornholm.

liberal elite said...

I did. It's one of Kris's favorite movies. I was wondering why they were speaking Swedish in Denmark.

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